Thursday, October 22, 2009

Prosthetic Aortic Valve? There's an App For That!

Meet iAorticValve produced by iMobileHealthCare, available now for upload to your iPhone.

In an era where the medical device industry is increasingly concerned about health care reform, innovation, and the implications for providing their products to patients, it's nice to know there are helpful companies sprouting up that can place company literature about mechanical, biologic, or percutaneous prosthetic aortic valves, both approved and experimental, on your iPhone free of charge. Further, if you want to go ahead and calculate your own STS (Society of Thoracic Surgery) Risk Calculator for placement of a heart valve, heck, you can do that also.

Do not, however, look for objective criticism of the various valve types since most device literature there fails to include warnings, containdications, or adverse events about the devices. Further, references were not hyperlinked, making the utility of the quickly reviewing the references challenging for the casual user. Maybe more information is provided if you're a patient that registers for the $39.99 (doctors pay $59.99) annual access fee to become part of the "network," but I regret that I failed to cough up the change when I realized I could just search Google instead on my iPhone for the same information.

However, I did register as a "patient" as a free trial to look around, and saw some nicely-produced industry videos from YouTube for my consumption, information on some nice doctors with an interest in experimental percutaneous valve placements and thoracic surgery along with information on which insurers those doctors accept.

But a word of caution is also in order. The images and content I found on the iPhone app appear to be those also displayed on the manufacturers' websites and from doctor's available online webpages. Whether or not these doctors are aware that this information exists there is uncertain. I did a little investigative reporting and discovered that at least one of the doctors on the company website did not personally register his information nor grant permission for its use there. In short, then, the iMobileHealthCare team appears to have aggregated information from various web sources with a heavy bias toward percutaneous aortic valve implantation. I could find no disclaimer to this effect on their site.

US FDA regulations that clearly state that marketing experimental devices before they are properly labeled is strictly prohibited. But does that marketing scheme pertain to other companies that don't make those devices? I don't know. It is interesting that this app promotes doctors who are investigating some of the percutenous aotic valve devices to patients eager to "learn more." I'll let you decide if that sounds like marketing.

But alas, it's a new iPhone frontier and the information contained on the device is out there in other locations on the web. Feel free upload the 5+ megabyte app on your iPhone for "free" and look around at the pretty pictures and see the link under "Resources" to PubMed's home page or the blog with a few entries. While there are a few bugs in the software, it's interesting to see where things are going in mobile health care information age for patients and doctors.

It's also interesting to see the challenges industry will have going forward trying to comply with FDA marketing regulations.


iAorticValve press release.

FCC Disclosure: I have no financial interest in the iAorticValve app nor iMobileHealthCare.

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